Today I started a new chapter. It is one I’ve longed for, but at the same time it’s come in an unexpected way and place.
Today I started working toward a Masters in Biblical Studies. It will involve learning Hebrew and Greek. The unexpected part is that I am at an Anglican seminary in western Pennsylvania. Five years ago I could not have imagined this.
I tell people I’m an accidental Anglican, but that’s not true. I have been careful to listen to the God of Israel for his guidance. It is he who led me here.
Why Anglicanism? It is hard to explain briefly, maybe because I’m still processing myself.
I grew up in an independent charismatic church. I am thankful for the leadership at Abundant Living Faith Center for helping me lay a solid biblical foundation, for teaching me how to pray and to trust God’s faithfulness to us.
Then, when I went to Israel in 2009 looking for newspaper work, the LORD dropped me into the house of prayer movement at Succat Hallel. It was like sitting under the shade of a giant tree by a huge, refreshing river from which you could drink as much as you wanted.
It was through intercessors at Succat Hallel that I was introduced to Christ Church Jerusalem. I applied to volunteer there because I would finally be able to serve in communications at a ministry in Jerusalem. The liturgical worship was just something I was going to have to endure, I thought.
God really does know what we need even when we don’t.
When one spends time in Israel, it is easy to fall in love with Jewish practice, especially as you find it informing your understanding of Jesus in his cultural context. There is also something powerful about devotion that is thousands of years old. As Paul tells us in Romans 3, Jews have been the keepers of the oracles of God. We have a Bible today (both Hebrew and Greek Bibles) because Jews were faithful to write and copy the Word of God.
Today’s evangelical Christianity can feel too modern in the light of ancient Jewish practice. We have been waiting 2,000 years for the return of Jesus Messiah, a Jewish man who fulfilled ancient Hebrew prophecies about a Redeemer coming to save Israel from her sins.
So what I found in Anglicanism was a way to connect to the ancient roots of our faith in liturgical practice (heavily inspired by Jewish precedent) while never losing sight of Jesus. You can see the liturgies used at Christ Church. One of my favorites is the Psalms of Ascent liturgy as Psalms 120-134 are the prayers that Jews prayed on their way to the Temple in Jesus’ time and before.
Not only that, but there is room in many Anglican congregations for the sensitivity to the Holy Spirit just like in the house of prayer movement. Sunday I worshiped at Christ the Savior Church in Ambridge, Penn. It is a storefront church with still-unpainted drywall. The stage was filled with musical instruments, and the back table had hot coffee for us. It looked like many small start-up churches I’ve visited. The service was structured using the Book of Common Prayer. Still, the worship in song was extended with no hurry to get to the next part of the service. There was time and space to just be still and know that the Holy Spirit was with us and adore God and commune with him.
After the songs and sermon and prayers, we finished with Communion. Many modern evangelical churches only have Communion once a month. That has never satisfied me. For many outsiders (and maybe some Christians), worship of God can seem abstract. The sharing of the bread and wine is one of the tangible ways we worship. It is a certain way to enter eternity for a moment and be at Jesus’ last Passover Seder, supping with all his disciples worldwide through the millennia.
I have so much to learn and am excited about what the semester holds. I have been encouraged by some of you to share what I am learning. So, I will endeavor to blog once a week, at least.
Please pray for me, for God’s provision, for focus, for grace.